The rise of Abu Dhabi's skyline: from the Novotel to Burj Mohammed bin Rashid

Tower blocks in the capital grew progressively taller, although there has been no new leader for seven years

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For fans of modern architecture, the UAE is an absolute feast.

Barely a month goes by without another new glistening skyscraper being added to the Abu Dhabi or Dubai skyline.

But some residents will recall a time when it was not like this, when the view of the sky was largely uninterrupted and the glowing light from the sunset beamed across the low-level city dwellings.

While Abu Dhabi's cityscape does not reach the heights of neighbouring Dubai, it has progressively grown taller during the past five decades.

The 10-floor Hilton Abu Dhabi stood out on the Corniche when it was opened by Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, on May 23, 1973. Now the Radisson Blu, it is dwarfed by new towers on both sides.


Another hotel took the city to new heights when the Novotel Centre Hotel opened in 1976.

It was the highest building for 14 years until the hulking Silver Tower opened on the Corniche in 1990.

The city centre continued to be the location for tall towers in the capital for the next 20 years.

Baynunah Tower housed a Hilton hotel and was distinctive for its blue-glass facade and white piping. It was essentially three towers in one.

It was the tallest in the region at the time of its completion in 1994.

In 2002 came the NBAD headquarters just off the Corniche on Khalifa Street, and then the 185-metre Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower in 2006.

"The building is alive and responsive to natural forces," said its architects, PLP Architecture.

"In the atrium, sails fold down to shade the sun. In the wings, an active facade of three layers and a solar-controlled blind shades work areas. The facade is used as an extract plenum, drawing cool air from the internal areas into its cavity and exhausting via the ceiling to the central core."

From 2010, much of the focus for tall buildings in the capital turned to Reem Island, where the Sun and Sky Towers development took the city's construction to new heights.

Sky Tower topped out at 292 metres and is still the tallest building on the island, although Addax Tower at 282m is close.

Its place at the top of the list of the capital's tallest towers was short-lived. The Landmark Tower opened on the Corniche in 2011 and then Burj Mohammed bin Rashid opened in 2014. It is the tallest in Abu Dhabi and fifth tallest in the UAE.

Tallest buildings in the Middle East

Tallest buildings in Abu Dhabi

1. Burj Mohammed bin Rashid, 382 metres

2. Adnoc HQ, 342 metres

3. The Landmark Tower, 324 metres

4. Etihad Tower 2, 305 metres

5. Sky Tower, 292 metres

6. Addax Tower, 282 metres

7. Trust Tower, 278 metres

8. Etihad Tower 1,278 metres

9. Nation Towers, 268 metres

10. Etihad Tower 3, 260 metres

11. Emirates Pearl, 255 metres

12. Gate Towers, 238 metres

13. Sun Tower, 238 metres

14. Etihad Tower 4, 234 metres

15. Nation Towers B, 233 metres